Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Welcome once again to What are you reading? Our special guest this week is Esther Inglis-Arkell, who you can find blogging about DC Comics over at the 4thletter! and about science and related stuff at io9. To see what Esther and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click the link below …
The Harry Potter series was about four books old by the time I started reading them, and I’m apparently on a similar schedule when it comes to Scott Pilgrim. Thanks in part to the local library, I’ve just finished Volume 3, Scott PIlgrim And The Infinite Sadness, and I feel a lot more grounded than I did at the end of Vol. 1. I liked the first book pretty well, but I thought the pacing was a little funky, a big plot twist came out of nowhere, and another big plot element was left hanging. Thankfully, subsequent volumes seem concerned primarily with following up on just those things. They’re also just as full of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s distinctive style: a fun combination of slacker chic and stylized hyperactivity.
In another better-late-than-never move, I have finally read “The Secret Origin Of The Guardians” (by John Broome and Gil Kane) in Green Lantern vol. 2 #40 (October 1965), reprinted in GL Archives Vol. 6. This is the story which introduced Krona and his quest to uncover the secrets of the universe, and thanks to Crisis On Infinite Earths it’s become one of the cornerstones of DC’s cosmology. It also features GL Alan Scott, making his first appearance in Hal Jordan’s book (the two had met already in JLA/JSA team-ups). However, it doesn’t live up to its promise of a big cosmic story involving the Green Lanterns of two Earths. Basically Krona, sentenced by the Guardians to an eternity trapped as an energy beam, finds his way into Alan’s ring. There he tricks Alan into going to Earth-One, where he’s able to get his body back. The mere fact of Krona’s freedom causes the universe’s evil quotient to ratchet up, which on Earth means that the planet itself starts trying to kill its own inhabitants. That’s pretty apocalyptic, but it also signals the story’s early peak. At the risk of spoiling the ending, it involves Hal getting around the color yellow. Still, Alan and Hal have a good rapport, and it’s not like DC was doing eight-issue event miniseries back then.
The last issue of The Brave and the Bold, featuring Aquaman and the Demon fighting a Cthulhu-like creature, was pretty strong. In terms of subject matter, this week’s #33 couldn’t be more different, but it might have been JMS’ best issue so far. I can’t really talk about it here without spoiling the ending, but I will say that Cliff Chiang draws the heck out of Zatanna, Diana, and Barbara Gordon enjoying a night on the town. The kicker is the last few pages, which put the story in context. If the issue had ended a couple of pages early, I think it might well have had the same impact; so I haven’t decided whether JMS was trying to clarify things for new readers, or whether he was being emotionally manipulative. Right now I’m leaning toward the former — that this was a well-constructed story which deserves not to be spoiled.
When I was a kid, I watched soap operas. What always amazed me is how I could miss three months or three years of the show, and I could catch up continuity wise in about two episodes. I’ve not read Green Lantern on a regular basis for a long time. The last time I remember reading it was around the time when Judd Winick was writing it and the Lantern was Kyle. And before then, it may have been issue in the 1980s, where Carol Ferris was asking Hal Jordan some variation of “hey, do you love me or what?” So I picked up Green Lantern 53 this week, and Carol was asking Hal the same damn question. Yes, I know you can point to the dynamics of several Marvel and DC comics and make the same complaint, but for me, there are few greater “stuck in the same rut” (take away every color lantern and major event comic) characters than Green Lantern for me.
The Brave & the Bold 33 features Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). I’m not quite sure why J. Michael Straczynski chose to tackle these three characters in a “girls night out” episode. JMS clearly wanted to add a wrinkle to the Batgirl history, and the coda to this issue is fairly intriguing once all the pieces fall together–but as a reader I’m torn. If you have Cliff Chiang as an artist, I wish you could do more than give him club scenes to draw (and yet being Chiang, he does some interesting things even with that).
I know nothing about the Guild (the online series) and have never been a gamer. But based on word of mouth at the local comic shop and the fact Jim Rugg was the artist, I picked up issues 1 and 2 this week. I don’t relate to a gamer’s life really, but I really enjoy the juxtaposition that writer Felicia Day builds between Cyd’s real and virtual life. And Rugg is perfectly suited for this series–particularly when scenes shift from the game to reality, Rugg pulls the difference off really well.
I’ve never read a great deal of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing before, but after this week’s Sif one-shot, I hope this was a test to see if there was enough interest for an ongoing. Count me as someone who would like to see DeConnick do more with Sif (particularly with this current character situation, living a mortal life on earth)–and if not Sif, some other Marvel character.
What if Grant Morrison wrote a damn fine comic book but it was not a superhero, would it get the same amount of attention as Batman PYT–er I mean RIP? In the case of Joe the Barbarian, I’m afraid not. For me, the words are secondary on this project. There are pages and pages of Sean Murphy’s art that I just find myself looking at repeatedly, particularly in this latest issue (#4). Hell, they could sell a cut of this story with the word balloons removed and I might buy it. In some ways, Murphy’s art reminds me of Walter Simonson (hands down one of my favorite storytellers). I can’t wait to see where this diabetic-induced partial hallucination takes me in the remaining four issues.
Other comic companies, if they can spare the ad space, really ought to jump on Dark Horse’s We Love Comics ad concept (this month it sports Alex and Janet Evanovich [authors of Troublemaker] holding copies of Little Lulu).I don’t recall other comic companies trying the “Got Milk” ad concept with comics (correct me if some have)–but it works for me.
I took the train to C2E2, and one of the reasons I like traveling by train is that it gives me lots of time to read. One of the books I brought along, partly because it fit easily into my knapsack, was The Legacy, by Andrew McGinn and David Neitzke. It’s a story about a cartoonist’s son who inherits his father’s strip and really doesn’t want it, so he sabotages it. I liked almost everything about this book: the breezy, appropriately cartoony art style, the characters, and the lampooning of daily newspaper strips. The only thing that didn’t work for me, oddly enough, was the strip that the main character drew; while his parodies of other strips were dead-on, his attempts to be outrageous struck me as clumsy and disconnected. Still, everything else about the book works and it delivered a few laugh-out-loud moments—ironically, at the expense of comic strips that were no longer funny.
I also had some floppies of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Friends, #296-299, which will be collected as volume 1 of Wizards of Mickey:Mouse Magic. It’s been a while since I have read any classic Disney, and I enjoyed this quite a bit. The art is very nice, but what I found interesting is that the plot starts out simply—Mickey, the sorcerer’s apprentice, loses his village’s magic crystal and has to fight in a wizard’s tournament to get it back—and becomes much more complex as the story goes on, with multiple crystals, a multilevel tournament, and some sort of struggle between Mickey’s master and his nemesis. Everything is handled with plenty of humor, and I can see this having a lot of appeal for Harry Potter fans.
On the way back, I made time for the Archie’s Wedding graphic novel. I’m an Archie fan from way back, so there was no way I wasn’t going to like this book, and I really did enjoy seeing the writers play with the characters and their different reactions in the two different plots. The only thing I didn’t care for was the complete lack of angst. When Archie marries Veronica and her father gives him a job, I expected him to freak out from stress and overwork—Veronica is a pretty high-maintenance gal, after all, and nothing in Archie’s background has equipped him for the type of work Mr. Lodge throws him into. But it’s all played for laughs. The same when he marries Betty and they have financial troubles, although that one played out a little more plausibly (I don’t dare say realistically). Anyway, it was an interesting experiment and a lot of fun to read.
The Brave and the Bold #33
The Brave and the Bold series offers the variety and the self-contained stories that you rarely see in comics anymore. This particular issue though, is the kind of issue that makes you brace for impact whenever you see a smiling face on the cover of a comic book. It seems that the only way to balance a few happy moments in a comic book is to end it with gut-wrenching, puppy-killing, candy-from-a-baby-stealing horror. Suffice it to say, if I never see Barbara Gordon open another door it will be too soon. And goddamnit, comics, be happier.
That said, the book does have some fun moments, it zigs when you expect it to zag a few times, and Cliff Chiang draws a wonderful young Batgirl. The physicality of the character is spot on, the facial expressions are great, and the nod to Batgirl: Year One obvious and respectful.
Tiny Titans #27
Forget everything in the issue, the comic is worth the two-fifty just for the kids’ drawings at the end. The best letter this month is by ‘Katrina,’ who writes that she’s a cartoonist and wants to work for DC Comics when she grows up. What can I say? I’m not made of stone.
Power Girl #11
As we near the end of the Gray, Palmiotti and Conner era, it’s clear that they aren’t going out with a whimper. A ten-page knock-down, drag-out fight scene gives way to the kind of callous badassness that even Miller’s Batman would have shrunk from. There’s an emotional beat, and then another three pages of concrete-spraying action. A few pages to resolve the threat and remind us that Power Girl is the kind of hero that we all want her to be; genuinely noble. And then we go out on a cliffhanger.
This isn’t a perfect example of a formula-driven story. This is the perfect example of why formula-driven stories are written. This comic is good enough to make people want to copy the rhythm of it, and good enough that the vast majority of those people will fall on their face trying. I can’t wait for next month.